Many students and faculty have had the displeasure of encountering the strange black hairballs in the first floor elevator lobbies of Jester West. But though all who come across them are curious as to their source, no one has put any actual effort into uncovering the origins of this mystery. Why this is the case eludes me. Does nobody care that our wonderful custodial staff, led by Linda Houston, has to spend extra time and effort every day removing the numerous balls of peculiar hair? Also, if some students’ theories are correct as to the hair being of animal origin, does that possibility not raise a possible sanitation risk? With these concerns in mind, I took it upon myself to solve this conundrum once and for all.
I began my search by asking Houston herself. “I don’t know where it comes from, and I don’t know how it gets here,” Houston said. She went on to tell me that in the 25 years she’s been working for the school, she’s never seen anything like it, and she thinks it started last school year around the end of the spring semester. She told me that she believes it to be human hair, but would not comment on any of my suggestions as to the possible source.
I decided to take a more scientific approach to the inquiry. But here again my efforts were stifled by the apathy and unwillingness to cooperate of individuals whose help I sought. In response to messages I sent out to professors involved in analytical biology, one professor even had the audacity to reply, “I’m not sure why you feel this topic is important enough to get people to spend time on it.” The more effort I put into my inquiries, the more I realized I was alone in my desire to free our custodial staff from this burden.
I resorted to probing the hairball knowledge of my fellow Jester residents. They presented some interesting theories. Ian Howard, a mechanical engineering sophomore told me, “It must have something to do with the elevators, since it’s always in the elevator lobby.” Howard went on to theorize that the draft created by the elevators’ opening and closing doors may be causing the accumulations of hair, lint and dirt that are constantly appearing on the first floor. However, this theory didn’t explain why the hair is only appearing on the first floor, and not the others. It also fails to answer for the significant amount of hair in the first place.
At the Jester West front desk, the staff shared their ruminations on the subject. The most compelling explanation was provided by a Jester R.A., who said, “It’s actually not human hair, but hair that comes off this brush that they use to clean the floors.” This seemed to make more sense than the other theories, so I decided to follow up on it. The next day I examined the machine for myself, and was disappointed to find that the hairs did not resemble the fibers of the cleaning machine.
I appeared to be at a dead end once again, when I came upon a hypothesis that could explain everything. The machine used to clean the floors has a buffing pad that spins in a circular motion and doesn’t actually suck up anything. In doing this the pad must collect dirt, lint and hair, but because it doesn’t suck it up, it just accumulates until a ball of it is big enough to break free from under the buffer. This could very well explain the cause of the hairballs. Furthermore, because these hairballs are initially left behind, it is possible that foot-traffic or the draft from the elevators causes the hairballs to migrate and appear later.
Although this seemed to me to be the most likely theory, Houston was reluctant to hear it. “That’s not lint. We’ve always had dust bunnies, but this is hair! That buffer doesn’t do that. I can be down there, and I turn around, and there it is! But I really don’t know.”
In conclusion, it seems the resources necessary to truly get to the bottom of this — a DNA laboratory, for instance — are beyond my reach. Despite all of the obvious reasons justifying the need for an official investigation, I wouldn’t hold my breath. Furthermore, even though my efforts were largely unsuccessful, what is the job of a student reporter if not to ask the hard questions?
Adams is a government freshman from Aiea, Hawaii.